Aetna Expands Initiative to Counter Opioid Overprescription

Aetna’s North Texas office is participating in a company-wide initiative to fight the growing opioid epidemic in the U.S. The managed healthcare company has been monitoring and engaging in an outreach campaign, contacting “super-prescribers” of opioids and requesting reductions to healthcare providers in Texas, California, and other “high impact” states.

Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna originally launched a campaign in August 2016, sending letters to nearly 1,000 “super-prescribing” doctors nationwide. Its efforts reported have paid off, reducing monthly opioid prescriptions among the commercial pharmacy membership by 7 percent, and leading to a 5 percent reduction rate of monthly opioid prescriptions among the Medicare Advantage pharmacy membership network.

Now Aetna’s North Texas region and California operations have sent an additional 729 letters to “super-prescribing” dentists and oral surgeons to continue its efforts to lower opioid use. According to Aetna, Texas has the second-highest numbers of “super-prescribing” dentists. Practicing dentists in the DFW area were writing “more than four prescriptions for more than a 7-day supply over the past two years,” based on regional claims data.

Dr. Grant Tarbox, Aetna’s senior director for medical health services in North Texas, noted there is a significant issue with dentists and oral surgeons overprescribing opioids in the area. “Aetna is using its considerable data resources to help clinicians understand how their prescribing patterns compare to their peers and to established guidelines,” Tarbox told D CEO Healthcare. “This will enable them to reduce misuse and abuse and prevent the diversion of unused pills which represents a major driver of the opioid epidemic.”

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